Where do we begin on this Monday of much-reflection?
From the "Talks too much" studios of course.
Florida Gators wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (1) is tackled by Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Herman Lathers (34) in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Wonder, wonder everywhere and now we stop to think
You like the literary play on words Spy? We knew you would. Well, three weeks into the college football season, there are questions everywhere. Well, everywhere other than Tuscaloosa, where the nation's best team lives.
Where do we start?
Do we start in Knoxville, where the hopes of a proud fan base and the eyes of a nation returned to watch a fourth-quarter beatdown from Florida?
Do we start start in Fayetteville, where the Game of the Century for Arkansas was derailed before kickoff when Tyler Wilson showed up in street clothes and Alabama punished — and punished may not be a strong enough verb — the Razorbacks for 60 minutes? (You can argue that this was derailed by Bobby Petrino on April's Fools Day, but these Hogs are at a crossroad after a letting the Tide walk in and hang a 52-0 whipping, after which Wilson said his teammates quit. There were empty seats before the game and a ton of empty seats after halftime. Of course, when John L. Smith, the Arkansas interim coach who replaced Petrino, told CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson at the end of the second quarter, "We need to keep doing what we're doing," it hardly inspired confidence. Arkansas was down 24-0 at that point and pretty much kept doing what they were doing.)
Do we start in the Pac-12, where Stanford shocked unbeaten USC for the fourth consecutive year and handed the title-hunting Trojans a tough loss to handle and even tougher to explain?
Do we start in Auburn, where the Tigers needed a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half and a field goal in overtime to escape with a 31-28 win over Louisiana Monroe? (Which is worse, that the Tigers paid the Skyhawks more than $1 million to come to Jordan-Hare and scare the mustache off Brian VanGorder or that every Auburn fan we know is simply happy to have a win?)
Let's start with what we know (non-UT division):
We know Alabama will be at least a two-touchdown favorite every Saturday between now and the LSU showdown.
We know that the nation's top two teams are the same teams that were viewed as the top two last year. Change it up all you want — four-team playoffs, eight-team playoffs, old-school bowls, whatever — to win it all someone is going to have to beat LSU or Alabama. Period.
We know that Georgia has talent, and as the defensive pieces start coming of the suspended list, the Bulldogs appear to be a team getting better by the week.
We know that Notre Dame is back in the national discussion with an impressive 20-3 win at then-No. 10-ranked Michigan State. And the Irish did it with a dazzling defensive effort (when was the last time that was said). And we're officially on the Manti Te'o bandwagon. The Irish linebacker had 12 tackles, busted up two passes recovered a fumble an recorded a sack in the win. Did we mention that last week, T'eo's grandmother and girlfriend passed away last week, and Te'o persevered and thrived amid the pain?
We know that two coaches who are relatively new at power programs had maybe the most enjoyable Sundays in a while. For Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and Florida's Will Muschamp, the air seemed a little cleaner, the birds seemed a little cheerier and they each got to experience the type of calm and peace like if they were in a place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. We're talking about a little place called Aspen.
The questions we had Friday about your Tennessee Vols — are they ready, can they handle the moment, is this the signature win for which the program has starved — were answered clearly. And the answer was a clear and resounding no.
And to make matters worse, the Vols lost their second-best defensive player when Brian Randolph hurt his knee.
It's been roughly 36 hours since the haze has started to lift since the Gators completed their 37-20 win over Tennessee by scoring the last 24 points. Let's take a point/counterpoint approach and see what you think:
Point: The Vols fan base is aching for success. Dude, that joint was hopping and the scenes in and around Knoxville were overwhelming. On that point it was a good night to have a slew of star-studded recruits in the house
Counterpoint: Hey, fans are free to react however they feel like they need to. They bought a ticket and as long as you're not cussing on saying something that is family inappropriate, know yourself out. That said, the boos that cascaded through the fourth quarter at an ever-emptying Neyland Stadium are heard by the players, fans, coaches and potential recruits. We know the boos are an emotional response to a negative situation in which people are deeply invested. But you realize that those boos actually add to the problem, right? And if you think you're booing the coaching staff and not the players, the future recruits do not know the difference. And if they do know the difference, they have to ask themselves, "How much longer is that coaching staff going to be there?"
Point: Tyler Bray has the talent to be an NFL quarterback.
Counterpoint: How many NFL starting quarterbacks had zero big wins in their college career?
Point: Tennessee lost this game as much as Florida won it. And while that may not seem like a good thing, at least Tennessee was in a place to compete. In recent years, games that UT lost, the outcome was so one-sided, the second half was about running out the clock. The Vols had their shots and landed a few.
Counterpoint: Next fall, this game will be in Gainesville and the Gators will be a preseason Top-10 pick. These Vols are young, but these Gators are really young and just won by three scores in Knoxville.
Point: Derek Dooley has improved the talent in his two years and three games in Knoxville.
Counterpoint: The Vols are still razor-edge thin, and the secondary is far too accommodating to guests.
Point: This UT team is more competitive and complete than any since 2007.
Counterpoint: If Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson leave, this will be the most talented team for the foreseeable future, too.
So what does this mean other than headaches and question marks? It's hard to know, but on Friday afternoon, there was an excitement, a buzz and a promise with Tennessee football. Today, we don't know if that was wasted emotion or misguided hope. We do know that Florida has won eight straight over the Vols, and this may be the most painful of those.
NFL lessons learned
We made some money — scratch that, made some entertainment memories — on Sunday's games. Week 2 of the NFL season was revealing.
We'll have our power poll after tonight's powerhouse showdown between Peyton Manning's Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons, but here is one 5-at-10's view of an 1/8 of the NFL season:
The good: The San Francisco 49ers are good. RGIII is good. In fact, the future of the game with the bevy of young quarterback talent — RGIII, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, et al. — is good. But most of all, the NFL's balance of power is good. There will be all of six teams at 2-0 after the second weekend of the season. That means 20 of the league's clubs are 1-1. The salary cap and the adjusted schedule work people. And they work to keep franchises some what balanced.
The bad: The officiating is rough. Missed calls, the over-used defensive pass interference, the lengthy discussions and even more lengthy reviews. The NFL is apparently willing to sacrifice an $8 billion industry for a few million at the table with the NFL's best officials. And here's the thing, these guys are not even the all-stars from college conferences. To make matters worse, at least one official was pulled from a crew this weekend because of photos of him online in full Saints paraphernalia. And he was slated to work the Saints-Panthers game Sunday.
The ugly: It would be easy to pick Josh Morgan, the Redskins receiver who threw the ball in frustration and got a 15-yard penalty during Washington's final drive looking for a tying field goal. (Although he threw the ball at Cortland Finnegan, and while that does not absolve Morgan, it at least explains part of it. Cortland Finnegan is the NFL's Eddie Haskel and could get under the skin of a pair of alligator shoes.) No, we'll give this to Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who showed his tuckus during the postgame handshake with Tampa coach Greg Schiano after the Bucs rushed the final Giants' snap during a kneel-down situation in New York's rallying 41-34 win. Coughlin was upset and felt it was a dirty play. First off, there is no dirty play if a team is trying to win the game, and that's what the Bucs did. Secondly, you need to take that to midfield and show your tuckus in the brightest light possible? Tom, you're wrong and you know it. And if you are worried about someone getting hurt, you're in the wrong BID-ness.
This and that
— The Braves swept the Nationals this weekend in Atlanta. The Braves are now 5.5 back of the Nats in the NL East, and as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/sep/17/mlb-managers-would-make-wildcard-different/, winning the division has huge dividends here. And the recent surge have the Braves seven clear of the second wildcard spot with 15 games to play.
— Congrats to Tiger, who had Florida 28-17, for winning the UT-Florida challenge.
— Apologies to anyone who bet with the Fab 4 picks last week. We went 1-4 with four favorites that took out-right loses. Wow. Not good. That leaves us 9-6 against the spread, and re-examining our plan. In truth, we got away from the ultimate goal, and that's picking winning bets rather than picking winning teams. There's a difference. And we'll do better. (That said, there was some money to be made Sunday in the NFL, and until further notice, bet against the Titans.)
— How about Brad Keselowski? The Polish Pole-Sitter won the first leg of the 10-race Chase and holds the points lead. He has finished in the top 10 in 10 of the last 11 races. We like the cut of this kid's gib.
— Because we have a strange vibe or something, we notice and remember things like this. Today is s grand slam day for birthdays. Consider this: Four of the greatest in their field were born on this day — Jimmie Johnson (1975), Alex Ovechkin (1985), Phil Jackson (1945) and the TV Show M*ASH (1973).
Your college football team is 25 percent through the regular season.
What's your feeling this morning?
If you're an Alabama fan, feel free to gloat.
If you're a Georgia fan, feel free to share your cautious optimism.
If you're a Mocs fan, feel free to toss out how big this week is with Appy State waiting on Saturday.
If you're a Vols fan, well, we'd like to hear what you got.
Feel free to feel free.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...